10 Terrific Birthday Traditions That Will Delight Your Kids

by Alissa Marquess on April 11, 2013

“Mama – why do we have birthday parties?”

“Well, we love you so much and we’re so very glad you were born and so we celebrate that day.”

“Oh… and so we can have cake?”

Well, don’t underestimate the importance of cake… 

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions

1.Have a compliment time.

What a great way to surround a birthday kid (or grown-up) with love!

Kelly: Our favorite birthday tradition is the compliment time we do on the birthday person’s birthday dinner. We go around and around saying all the things we love about the person and they just accept it they can’t say no or I’m not that great, they can just say thank you.

Little Hearts Books: Blow up a ton of balloons and write something special about them on each one, then fill the hallway outside their bedroom door with the balloons so when they wake up in the morning and walk out, they’re greeted with a really special start to their day


2. Have a special way to wake up.

It could be as simple as singing happy birthday right away or inviting your child to snuggle with you and look at baby pictures first  thing.  Here are a couple more wake up traditions:

Elizabeth: We start every birthday by waking up the birthday boy or girl with a “Long John” or doughnut with a birthday candle and the “happy birthday” song. We always take a picture with the birthday boy or girl and their Long John (which has lead to some crazy morning hair pictures)!

Eileen: When my kids go to sleep the night before their birthday, I’ll decorate their doorway with streamers and balloons so when they open the door in the morning they have a whole celebration to walk through. My teenage son is starting to lose his patience for this little tradition LOL!

3. Let your child pick dinner…the cake…breakfast:

My kids pick what kind of cake they’ll have. One year we had a stack of marshmallows (which we took out back and roasted)!  One year my son asked for a “Strawberry Elephant Cake” which was only accomplished because I had a tiny elephant cookie cutter and cut sliced strawberries into the elephant shape.

10 Terrifc Brithday Traditions you can Start Any Year - cakes, songs and more

Barbara: “The younger grand kids go with me and we pick out a cake to bake and decorate together. I than cook their favorite meal. My 19 yr old daughter and I always buy a Dairy Queen ice cream cake and just the two of us eat the entire cake. It does take us a few days to eat the cake. We do this on her birthday and on mine.”

Jessica: The big deal at my house is that the birthday kid gets to eat anything he wants for dinner. The little ones are usually easy… Like Mac and Cheese. But the older ones are always after homemade sushi:)

Sarah A birthday crown and the Seuss birthday book, which we only wear and read on that day. A special breakfast of whatever he chooses. And cupcakes!

4. Make a memory keepsake of the year

These are the sort of traditions that stress me out when I think “But I didn’t start when they were a baby!”  Or “What if I do this a couple years and then not on others??”  But really, even doing these things only one or two times adds some very special keepsakes.  My son will have a letter from me from his first birthday, and a list of questions he answered this year for his eighth, with just pictures in between, and that’s fine.  I trust he’ll like the little gems he gets.

Rhonda: We put a picture of our son in a black frame with a very large matting around it. We display it at the party and ask all of our guests to write a small note to our little man. He now has a small collection of frames displayed in his room with special memories written on each one!

Kim: I take photos from each month and special occasions and put them in a collage poster (costco 7 dollars) I hang up the ones from the earlier years at the party too. It is a simple and easy way to view each year. And the guests always love to see them.

5. Have a Treasure Hunt!

How I set up a treasure hunt: I write the last clue first that leads to the present and hide the present there, then I write the next clue before that and hide that clue, then the one before that – working backwards until I have a beginning clue to put into an envelope.  This year we gave our son a Magic Set (Amazon affilaite) (perfect for an 8 year old, he’s been too cute with it so far…), so I had fun with the magic theme by making his clues on the backs of playing card.  It doesn’t take long.  And if you don’t want to write clues you can also try the fun hot/cold idea below.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions - treasure hunts

Do you have golden birthdays?  When you turn the same age as the day of your birthday, like turning 8 on the 8th?  

Rachel:  I have a treasure hunt game for them to find their presents in the morning…Eg…”go to the sweetest place in the house”…they would then find the next clue near the sugar bowl..it would then have another clue etc. etc. I would do this about 10 times before the final reveal of where the presents are. Sometimes there would be presents along the way with the next clue taped to it.

Megan: My Mom started playing hot cold with my gifts. She would hide them all over the house. I used to love this and it makes the opening of gifts last longer. I’m excited to do this with my son when he’s older.

6. Make a birthday crown

This can be made of fabric or felt (you can find adorable fabric crowns on Etsy.)  Or you can simply make one out of paper.  It could even be a birthday party activity – you cut out the crowns and let the kids decorate.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions you can Start Any Year

7. Recite a special birthday chant.
Maybe you sing Happy Birthday, maybe not, but what if your family has their own twist on this tradition?

Kim: I don’t know but I’ve been told, Someone here is ____years old.  Bad news is we sing off key!  Good news is we sing for free! Happy (happy) Birthday (birthday) Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!

Mary Price My family has a tradition that’s at least five generations old. After singing Happy Birthday and before blowing out the candles the whole family recites the following poem: “Many happy returns to the day of thy birth, many seasons of joy be given, and may our dear Father prepare you on earth for a beautiful birthday in Heaven.” Then we clap and chant 1…2…3…etc, up to the celebrant’s age. (It’s a lot of clapping at a grandparent’s birthday!)

 8. Have special decorations just for birthdays.

We have a fabric birthday banner we hang every year.  It’s come with us to parks and grandparent’s houses.

10 Terrific Birthday Traditions you can Start Any Year

9. Make a special event that’s just for your family.

Traditions should come out of what your family really loves – don’t continue things that don’t work.  Your family could enjoy something as small as a hike, a bowling trip, or as big as a trip to Hawaii, but they should suit your family, not what your friends or in-laws love.

Helen  I don’t know if we will keep this up, but our current tradition (started at The beginning of last year) is a family trip bowling and then out for cake on the afternoon of the persons birthday… Ds1 was 3 when we started this and we did it for all family members… (Me, dh and him so far)…

Jennifer: The 10th bday is big in our family. You can only add a digit 2x in your life, 10 & 100. We take a big trip somewhere none of us has ever been before. We start talking about it when they turn 8. Have to make a decision when they turn 9 so mom & dad can make plans and save some money. For my son’s 10th birthday we went to Honolulu, HI. It takes lots of planning but is so much fun. My 6 yr old is already thinking about where he wants to go. Can’t wait to see where we end up.

10. Embrace Calamity.

Some of the best birthday traditions are born out birthday disasters.  One time when we were kids my mom was sick in bed on my birthday.  We had birthday parties on the bed for years after that because it was so much fun.

Barb: For something that became just a silly family tradition, one year we forgot candles on someone’s birthday. My husband went and got his big red Mag-lite & ‘illuminated’ the cake that way (the bbq grill lighter has also been used) but that has become the family tradition. No candles — a flashlite or lighters

Add your own tradition!  What delights your kids on their birthdays? Scroll down to leave a comment.


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandra April 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

When I was a kid my parents woudl always wake me up and make me a cup of hot chocolate – I loved it so much I decided to greet the birthday girl/boy the same way! :)


Alissa Marquess April 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

Aww, that’s a sweet tradition and nice and simple too. Thanks so much for the idea!


crystal @ Growing A Jeweled Rose April 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

So many great ideas here! Birthdays are so fun. I love that marshmallow cake- and the idea of roasting them outside. Perfect for a Summer party.


Alissa Marquess April 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm

We’ve done roasting marshmallows at two birthday parties for the kids and it’s been a lot of fun to have everyone out back around the fire. And of course, teaching kids to roast the perfect marshmallow is one of those parenting Must Dos ;)


Tricia April 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Beautiful post! I’ve fallen in love with making customized banners, too! A tradition we’ve started which the kids get a kick out of- is they request that I make a quilled paper art piece of them doing something relevant to their bday party theme. Our son wanted to be Superman but with an L in place of the S. Our daughter wants me to make the piece of her in a fashion outfit she designs. Kind of an odd tradition, but they are so proud that they are featured in a piece of art. ha!


Alissa Marquess April 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Ha! What a quirky and fun tradition Tricia! That fits you perfectly.


Anna April 11, 2013 at 4:18 pm

What a great post- I love the idea of making special little traditions around birthdays! Gorgeous ideas- some we already do, others we’d like to include! Actually, going around the table complimenting the bday person is a tradition that randomly started in my family and we still do it- I’m 37 and my youngest brother is 23!!( five kids and our parents!!!) we often end up in hysterics as we might include some funny things the bday person has done too! :-)


Alissa Marquess April 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

What fun that that tradition has stayed with your family so long. And I can imagine it has caused a lot of laughter too.


Tasha April 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

We have a special festive birthday plate for each kiddo that has their name and birth date painted around the edge. They only use it on their birthday. I hope when they are older, their special plates will trigger fond memories of childhood birthday celebrations.


Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam April 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

What a lovely post showing you don’t have to go to extremes to make your children’s birthday special. For birthdays around our house, we have a “yes” day for the birthday child. That child gets to choose what we do during the day and we say yes to whatever we can.

I love the fabric birthday banner. I might have to make one for our family.


Alissa Marquess April 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm

We love our banner too. The kids think its not a birthday unless we put it up.


Kristal Jacobs February 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

My mom had a special coloring book and each year I would color the next page and write my name and age on it. My daughter’s room is Wizard of Oz, so I got a special coloring book before she was born and my husband and I colored the first page in the hospital together.


Lindsay February 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

LOVE the coloring book idea!!!

Every year for my son’s birthday I have bought a special reading book. I bring it to the birthday party and have all of the guests sign it with a message for the birthday boy! He now has six birthday books, we read the books and messages all the time :)


Jenny March 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm

There are lots of great ones here. I particularly love the treasure hunt. We got those when my parents would go out of town, but it’s a great idea to do on vacation. One I loved was packages for the number of years you are. They can be tiny things, but special treats (a favorite cereal, a mango, a poem), but the key is that there are lots of little packages greeting them.


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